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Georges Bataille, Chögyam Trungpa, and Radical Transformation: Theorizing the Political Value of Mindfulness


Social movements are increasingly turning to mind-body practices like meditation to support their work. This is a new, but still marginal trend. The spread of mindfulness practices among social justice organizations willgrow if a compelling case can be made that mind-body practices are central, not peripheral, to collective liberation. The philosophers Georges Bataille and Chögyam Trungpa provide that case. Both Bataille and Trungpa, in their respective works, articulate how easy it is for humans to feel small inthe face of a contingent and finite existence, and how this felt smallness often fuels compensatory desires for aggrandizement and domination, desires with profound material effects. If there are existential drivers behind systemic dominations like colonialism, capitalist exploitation, white supremacy,and hetero-patriarchy, then existential change strategies become central to addressing the causes of injustice. The accounts provided by both Bataille and Trungpa clarify how efforts to integrate mind-body practices into social movements are central to the pursuit of social and ecological justice.

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